Iran invites U.N. atom chief to see its nuclear sites
VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran's nuclear energy chief said on Tuesday he had held "very good" and "transparent" talks with the head of the U.N. atomic agency and had invited him to visit the Islamic state's nuclear facilities.
The rare meeting in Vienna between Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani and Director General Yukiya Amano of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) follows increasingly strained ties between Tehran and the U.N. body over the last year.
Iran has rebuffed IAEA appeals for information and access to help clarify allegations of military-linked nuclear work.
Western powers suspect Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability, a charge it rejects.
Abbasi-Davani, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said the two sides pledged to resolve their problems through more dialogue in future.
"We don't have differences of view," he told reporters.
But he did not give any details on what was discussed and there was no sign that he had made any major concessions in the long-running row over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
Iran's refusal to halt enrichment has led to four rounds of U.N. sanctions on the major oil producer, as well tighter U.S. and European Union restrictions.
An IAEA official confirmed the meeting took place but declined to elaborate. The two men met on the sidelines of a major international nuclear safety meeting in Vienna.
Despite his positive comments about the talks, Fereydoun-Abbasi also made clear his irritation at the agency, accusing it of preventing some of the country's nuclear experts from attending scientific meetings.
"We have objected and protested," Abbasi-Davani said. "We consider this kind of act as an ugly and inhuman act."
NO STUXNET DAMAGE
Amano has taken a blunter approach toward Iran than his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei, saying in his first report on the country's nuclear activities last year he feared it may be working to develop a nuclear-armed missile.
Western diplomats say he may firm up those suspicions in upcoming reports, which could add weight to any renewed drive to impose more sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Abbasi-Davani said he had invited Amano "and his colleagues to come to visit anywhere they like in all our nuclear installations." He spoke in Farsi and his comments were translated into English by Iran's IAEA envoy.
It was unclear whether any such visit would include the kind of access to officials, documents and sites the IAEA wants. Iran has invited IAEA-accredited diplomats to tour its nuclear facilities, but Western envoys have dismissed such offers.
A nuclear scientist, Abbasi-Davani was appointed head of Iran's atomic agency earlier this year, a few months after he was slightly wounded in a 2010 bomb attack which Tehran blamed on Israel.
He has been personally subjected to U.N. sanctions because of what Western officials said was his involvement in suspected nuclear weapons research.
He said Iran was making good progress on its Bushehr nuclear power plant but refused to give any estimate on when the Russian-built reactor would be launched, after years of delay.
The official Irna news agency quoted Abbasi-Davani as saying on Tuesday that Iran's first nuclear power plant may face yet another delay in generating electricity.
Meant to be the first of a network of nuclear power stations Iran says it is planning, the Russian-built Bushehr complex has missed numerous deadlines to come on stream.
"We should not be influenced by those who exert pressure to have the (Bushehr) power plant launched sooner because a few months of delay will not create any problems," Irna quoted Abbasi-Davani as saying.
Iran had "started the process" of ratifying an international pact aimed at improving nuclear safety, He said. The IAEA has urged Iran to sign the pact which groups all atom power states.
Iran has the capability to export nuclear technology such as uranium conversion facilities, he said, adding the Stuxnet computer virus had had no impact on its atomic work.
Security analysts suspect the virus targeted Iran's nuclear program and hit centrifuge machines used to enrich uranium.
"We have been facing these cyber attacks," he said. "Fortunately Iranian scientists ... have been able to protect our installations and computers from these kinds of attacks."
(editing by Paul Taylor)